Eddie Koiki Mabo Lecture Series
Eddie Mabo was a staff member at JCU, working as a groundsman from 1967 to 1971. From 1973-1983 he established and became director of the Black Community School in Townsville. During this time he enrolled as a student and studied teaching at the College of Advanced Education, which later amalgamated with JCU. It was through his association with JCU humanities and education staff, Professor Henry Reynolds and Associate Professor Noel Loos, that Eddie became interested in who owned the land on which his people lived, and in Native Title.
Eddie Mabo's legal pursuit of these issues resulted in one of the most significant legal cases in Australian history, in that it completely overturned the idea of terra nullius (land belonging to no-one) and challenged traditionally held beliefs about how Australia came into being, and about ownership of land. On 3 June 1992, six of seven Australian High Court judges ruled: The Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the lands of the Murray Islands [in Torres Strait].
For many at JCU, the landmark legal decision has been rendered personal, as well as political and historic, because of Eddie's important association with JCU staff and students, and with our surrounding communities.
Mabo Day occurs annually in Australia on 3rd June. It commemorates Edward (Eddie) Koiki Mabo (1936-1992), a Torres Strait Islander whose campaign for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights led to a landmark decision in the High Court of Australia on 3rd June 1992 that overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius, which had characterised Australian law with respect to land and title since the voyage of Captain James Cook in 1770.
JCU celebrates the history-making Mabo decision with the long established Eddie Koiki Mabo Lecture Series, an annual public commemorative presentation by a prominent person who has made a significant contribution to contemporary Australian society.
In this lecture, Emeritus Professor John Maynard pays tribute to Eddie Koiki Mabo, by highlighting forgotten heroes and heroines of Indigenous history. Focusing on the lives and times of three courageous historical figures, sports star Dave Sands, political activist Jane Duren, and war hero Douglas Grant, this lecture will reveal the importance of uncovering and understanding the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.
About the Presenter:
Emeritus Professor John Maynard is a Worimi Aboriginal man from the Port Stephens region of New South Wales. He is currently Director of the Purai Global Indigenous History Centre at the University of Newcastle. He has held several major positions and served on numerous prominent organizations and committees including, Deputy Chairperson of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). He was the recipient of the Aboriginal History (Australian National University) Stanner Fellowship 1996, the New South Wales Premiers Indigenous History Fellow 2003, Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow 2004, University of Newcastle Researcher of the Year 2008 and 2012. In 2014 he was elected a member of the prestigious Australian Social Sciences Academy and in 2020 elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Professor Maynard’s publications have concentrated on the intersections of Aboriginal political and social history, and the history of Australian race relations. He is the author of several books, including Aboriginal Stars of the Turf, Fight for Liberty and Freedom and The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe.
The annual Indigenous Students' Awards Night recognises and celebrates the academic and personal achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at James Cook University.
Academic Awards are presented to students from each of JCU's Colleges, the Diploma of Higher Education, and the Centre for Rural & Remote Health.
Spirit Awards are presented to students who have shown exceptional strength and resilience to overcome setbacks and persist with their studies.
The evening showcases not only the outstanding efforts of our students, but also the support they receive from their families and friends, the high level of academic and pastoral care provided by the IERC, and across the University.
The celebration provides an inspiring showcase to other Indigenous students and to our many supporters across the JCU community, the Indigenous community, across education, Industry and government sectors, and the community at large.
Indigenous Student Graduations
Cultural Sashing Ceremonies
Each year, we see many of our graduating students from the Cairns and Townsville campuses attend the Sashing Ceremony prior to their official graduation.
Graduating students who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander are entitled to wear a cultural sash that identifies their cultural heritage as being Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or both. The sash is placed around the wearer's neck by the Chancellor at a dedicated ceremony that takes place in a side-room within the graduation venue. It is worn over the graduation gown for the official graduation ceremony, and can also be worn at formal academic ceremonies. Family and friends are also invited to attend this intimate event.
JCU Graduation celebrations
The number of Indigenous students completing their studies at JCU has more than doubled in the past four years, with 136 students finishing in 2019.
In 2016, 54 Indigenous students completed their studies at JCU and that number has increased year on year, to 75 in 2017, and 105 in 2018.
56 Indigenous students were among the 1192 students that graduated from their studies in tropical health and medicine in 2019.